John Foraker is "hopping down" from his role as president of the Annie’s Organic operating unit of General Mills, Inc., to pursue another opportunity, he announced in an Aug. 3 blog. Foraker said he will remain with the company, working closely with the North American leadership team and advising the Annie’s operating unit.
Foraker served Annie’s for almost 18 years and nearly three years with General Mills, which purchased Annie's in 2014. Carla Vernon, currently vice-president, natural and organic growth acceleration at General Mills, will succeed Foraker as president.
Foraker said he's leaving for two reasons: the first is the integration of Annie’s into General Mills, which is 100 percent complete. "I knew I’d never willingly leave until I felt that the business and culture of Annie’s were strong enough post-acquisition that they could self- sustain for the long term inside General Mills. The track record of big CPG in this area has been spotty, yet the Annie’s acquisition has been wildly successful."
The second is that he will be developing a new, organic, "disruptive" business" in the San Francisco Bay area. "I am leaving in order to join an exciting new company in the food space," he stated. "I recently came onto a unique start-up opportunity that is exciting and terrifying at the same time that I cannot pass up. Although I will be leaving my day-to-day role, I am not leaving General Mills. I will continue to work closely with the North American leadership team, and the Annie’s Operating Unit as an active adviser to the enterprise in a new role ... In this role, I will do everything I can to help General Mills win for the long term."
Foraker said Vernon will relocate to California and join Annie's Berkeley, Calif., team. He said Vernon is very experienced and has significant passion for, and experience in, the natural and organic space. "The work we’ve done together recently on Cascadian Farm and central capabilities development has been excellent. Carla is a purpose-driven leader who will maintain the culture and authenticity of the Annie’s operating unit, and help the broad enterprise continue its journey to become the most dominant CPG player in natural and organic across North America."
He also underscored that his departure is unrelated to Annie's, and the packaged food industry’s, recent struggles. "I am very confident in the leadership of General Mills. Jeff Harmening will be a bold CEO, and will do what it takes to win I have no doubt about that,"he said. "I will always be thankful to him for having the guts to buy Annie’s and to allow us to preserve and propagate our core DNA across the enterprise in the way we have done. He allowed us to be ourselves without compromise. I am confident in his ability to steer the choppy waters in order to bring the company back to global leadership. It will happen, mark my words."